It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie; sending a probe to some far flung comet from the Kuiper belt to search for clues as to the origin of life on Earth. But this is exactly what the scientists at the European Space Agency have achieved.
The ambitious mission began over a decade ago, when a probe 2.8m x 2m x 2.1m weighing in at 2900kg was launched from the Guiana Space Centre on the 2nd of March 2004.
Rosetta mission has achieved many historic landmarks and is set to break even more barriers.
On its way to the comet, Rosetta passed through the main asteroid belt, and made the first European close encounter with several of these primordial objects. It was also the first spacecraft to fly close to Jupiter's orbit using solar cells as its main source of power.
Rosetta is the first spacecraft to orbit a comet nucleus, and the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner Solar System.
It is planned to be the first spacecraft to examine at close range how a frozen comet is transformed by the coming close to the warmth of the Sun. Shortly after its arrival at 67P, the Rosetta orbiter dispatched the Philae lander for the first controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus. The robotic lander's instruments obtained the first images from a comet's surface and made the first analysis of its composition from the surface of a comet.
However, the highlight of the mission so far has been the successful landing of the Philae lander onto the icy surface of comet 67P, despite the unintended double bounce after initially making contact with the surface.
Even more excitingly, the mission is beginning to bear scientific fruit, in another dimension than overcoming a tremendous challenge, as the lander is transmitting data on the chemical composition of the comet, which could have huge implications for our knowledge on where, at a very fundamental level, life on Earth comes from. An instrument on Rosetta has already detected water, methane and hydrogen as well as rarer molecules such as formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide, findings that could indicate whether comets delivered the vital ingredients of life to the early Earth.
It is no surprise that the Rosetta mission recently won an award for being the most important scientific breakthrough of the year. But Rosetta is so much more than that. It is part of the answer to one of the fundamental questions we have about ourselves; where do we come from? The quest to find the answer to this, amongst many others, comes from some deep down curiosity, it is part of what makes us human, a thirst for knowledge, a journey towards understanding not only the world around us, but, on a deeper level, understanding where exactly our own origins lay.